There is currently a demographic that comprises 24% of the U.S. population and will grow by 40% over the next five years. That’s 75 million people expected to increase to 105 million by 2015.
The group isn’t teens or an immigration influx – we’re talking about seniors aged 55 and older. The baby boomer generation is peaking in population and, according to an October 2009 study conducted by Met Life, 90% of those surveyed want to avoid assisted living and its $150/day expense (average in Minnesota). They want to live as independently as possible and with the amount of maintenance required to stay in a private residence the near future is almost certainly going to see seniors moving to condominiums in droves. Are homeowner associations ready for this? They can be.
Changing an entire HOA or apartment complex over to near-assisted living can be incredibly expensive with stair lifts, elevators and monitoring systems. Your HOA doesn’t have to install all of those things or even suggest adjustments in all of the units. By making a few common sense adaptations to just a percentage of available units, your HOA can be prepared for the next wave.
Walk in your demo’s shoes. As we get older, we don’t lift our feet as high when we walk. We also utilize walkers and wheelchairs. Innocuous thresholds, cords, loose rugs and high-shag carpeting become a nuisance. Raised concrete and uneven ground around the building are just as bothersome. Falls are the number one cause of accidents in the home but can be greatly alleviated with a few adjustments.
Keep items reachable. Slide-out racks installed in cupboards will save someone a sore back by making that buried frying pan more easily accessible. Installing towel racks right next to the shower can eliminate a slippery step.
Make safety a priority in the bathroom. Speaking of slippery steps, safety bars and treads in the shower are a no-brainer. Wall mounted fold-up chairs, regulated temperature faucets and walk-in tubs are other helpful additions for someone with limited mobility.
Install a mini emergency kiosk. A properly outfitted end-table in an accessible spot can save crucial minutes in the event of an emergency. Add a phone with large fire, medical and family speed dial buttons. Post a list of emergency contacts right next to the first-aid kit you’re attaching to the side of the end-table. The #2 and #3 home injuries are burns and cuts, respectively, so account for those in the first-aid kit. This addition is a HUGE benefit for family members’ peace of mind.
Create smooth transitions. Ramps and raised counters that account for wheelchairs will make a buyer’s decision for them. No access means no new association member.
Monitoring systems bring peace of mind. Some companies coordinate the installation of home monitoring systems. Humidity sensors installed in a bathroom tell whether or not your loved one is regularly bathing. A sensor in the kitchen can tell if a burner has been left on. The information is sent to an electronic data manager that can be fully monitored online. Alerts can be automatically sent to pagers and cell phones. Nathan Pearson of The Good Samaritan Society explains, "A family member may worry that a loved one isn’t getting enough rest or eating properly, and this technology can help give family members a level of assurance that their loved ones are receiving the assistance that they need.”
With a large aging population about to engage the HOA market, it may be wise to consider these options sooner rather than later. The sooner you can announce that your HOA is "retirement-ready,” the sooner a family can start including you in their preparatory research. A few adjustments and your HOA or apartment complex can appeal to major demographic, increase your occupancy capacity and make someone’s life a lot easier.